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 2.5 million Mongols live in Mongolia. Physically most Mongolians are stocky and of medium height with light brown skin and dark hair. The epicanthic, or angled, eye fold is common. As the name suggests, Mongolians belong racially to the broad grouping called Asiatic, or Mongoloid.

Of the many Mongol groups, the largest is the Khalkha, who make up about 80 per cent of the population and live mainly in the central and eastern areas of the country. Other Mongol groups include the Buryads, Dörwöds, Öölds, Bayads, Dzakhchins, Uriyankhais, Uzemchins, and Bargas. Each has its own dialect and traditions, but in general differences are small. The largest non-Mongol ethnic group, comprising about 5 per cent of the population, is the Kazakhs, a pastoral, Turkic-speaking, Muslim people who live in the extreme west.

About one third of the population lives in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and another quarter live in other cities and settlements. About 40 per cent of the population is spread throughout rural Mongolia. The population density, at slightly more than 1.5 persons per square kilometer (4 persons per sq. mile), is the lowest of any country in the world.

Nearly 400,000 herdsmen look after about 30 million livestock moving from place to place several times a year looking for better pasture, water and weather. The life of nomads is inextricably linked with the environment and the animal.